Corentin Tolisso returned to Bayern Munich over the summer as a FIFA World Champion with France, but what else is there to know about the versatile former Lyon midfielder? bundesliga.com takes a closer look…
1) He was once a striker
Tolisso started out with local clubs near his birthplace of Tarare and home town of Amplepuis, about 30 and 40 miles from Lyon respectively, where he would earn his stripes as a professional.
Unlike the tough-tackling, probing midfielder he would become, however, he began life as a forward. At the age of 11, he even scored a hat-trick in a 4-4 draw against his future club, Olympique Lyonnais. Not surprisingly after a performance like that, the seven-time French champions signed him up to their academy in 2007.
2) A Bayern fan from the start
Tolisso answered Bayern’s call in the summer of 2017, and made a dream start by scoring on his league debut in a 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen on the opening day of the 2017/18 season.
The French midfielder had been a massive Lyon fan growing up, but perhaps it was no surprise that he looked so comfortable at Bayern. Shortly after sealing his move to Germany, after all, he had posted a picture of him as a child in which he was proudly sporting a Bayern jersey.
“Don’t dream your life… live your dreams,” the message accompanying his Instagram post read.
Speaking to L’Equipe shortly after his arrival in Munich, he explained why the switch was so fitting.
“My agent called me to tell me about Bayern's interest, and a few days later, I met them,“ he said.
“It's one of the top three clubs in Europe with a great playing philosophy which suits me. I went for it without any hesitation. When I was little, it was already a club that meant something to me. There were French players there like Willy Sagnol and Bixente Lizarazu, there were big names…“
3) It wasn’t plain sailing
The first couple of years at Lyon’s academy went well but Tolisso recalls that he soon began facing tougher challenges when he hit 15.
“At the end of the season they said to me ‘we’re not keeping you at the training centre, boarding,” he told Onze Mondial magazine in 2017. “We’re keeping you at OL but you’ll have to find a solution to come to school and training here.’”
Tolisso’s family lived a long way from Lyon’s training complex, meaning that he was suddenly in a quandary.
“That was my first really difficult moment,” he said. “I cried about it. It was complicated. I didn’t know what I was doing to do.” The future France international’s family came to the rescue. His mother found a job in Lyon, and they moved to within 30 minutes of the city.
“From the age of 16, I left every morning at 6am with my mother. I went to secondary school and she went to work. After my classes, I went to training and then I took the metro. After that, I used to catch one of the last trains to get back home.
“It was quite complicated and tough above all. All the more so because, during that same year, I got injured. I had a meniscus [knee] operation. I was out for more than three months. It was difficult to live through, but I didn’t give up.”
4) Building his fighting character
The initial injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Tolisso feels he “transformed” as a player on his return. Even another knee issue didn’t hold him back, as he began to grow and become much stronger.
Watch: All Tolisso's goals and assists for Bayern in 2017/18
5) Unusual debut
By then he was developing into a talented midfield player, fuelled by a desire to prove his early doubters wrong.
“For me everyone has their life, everyone has their story, everyone has had their difficulties,” he told Onze Mondial. “You can’t manage to become a professional by clicking your fingers without any problems, or without any sacrifice. It’s at that time that it was complicated for me – my mindset took shape.”
A week after his 19th birthday, all Tolisso’s sacrifices will have felt worth it when he was sent on to make his Ligue 1 debut in a 4-0 win over Nice.
Hardly anyone at the Stade Gerland or watching at home will have noticed however. It was deep in stoppage time when the youngster came on, and Yoann Gourcuff had just scored a free-kick for the home side.
The TV cameras were still showing slow-motion replays of the goal when Tolisso came on, and a few seconds later the referee blew the final whistle. So not only is there no footage of his first appearance as a professional, but he also didn’t touch the ball.
6) He could have played for another team at international level
Tolisso earned his first cap for France at under-19 level, and soon became an important part of his country’s under-21 side.
The 23-year-old’s father is from Togo, but in a 2015 interview with L’Equipe he dismissed any notion that he would represent the West African nation at senior level.
“There’s no debate,” he said. “I’m not disowning Togo, the country my family originally came from. But I was born here and grew up here [in France].
A year later Togo manager Claude Le Roy said he would nonetheless try to convince Tolisso to play alongside the likes of Hannover attacker Ihlas Bebou at international level. But Le Roy’s efforts proved fruitless, as Tolisso made his debut for France in March 2017.
7) A versatile player with a solid scoring record
In his final season in France Tolisso finished with 13 goals in all competitions, often playing as an advanced midfielder behind goal machine and fellow academy graduate Alexandre Lacazette.
In his career so far Tolisso has averaged a goal every six games, with his tally for Bayern already in double figures as he scored 10 goals and assisted seven in his 40 games during 2017/18. And when he was on his way to Bayern, former France international Jean-Pierre Papin compared him to one of his predecessors at the German champions.
“Tolisso is a bit like [Toni] Kroos in terms of his style of play,” Papin, an ex-Bayern striker, told Bild. “He can defend, he can attack and he can play an important role in midfield. He has great technique, is dangerous in front of goal and can also make goals.”
As for the former Lyon captain, he knows he will never be a player who will dribble past several players in a game. He told Onze Mondial that he takes inspiration from the likes of Kroos, Luka Modric, Thiago, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
“I try to be as effective as possible,” he told the French magazine. “Control, pass, control, pass, move, then to be decisive – assist, goal.”
8) He’s continuingthe French connection
Tolisso was the seventh Frenchman to turn out for Bayern, following Papin, Lizarazu, Sagnol, Valerien Ismael and current clubmates Franck Ribery and Kingsley Coman. Ribery’s presence was particularly important in helping Tolisso settle in so quickly at the Allianz Arena.
“He makes you hungry to play and supports everyone,” explained the 23-year-old of the veteran winger who is 12 years his senior. “He talks a lot to Kinglsey and I, which is also important because I don’t yet understand everything.”
Tolisso scored twice in the 3-1 UEFA Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain last December, yet he reserved special praise for Ribery, who wore the captain’s armband that night.
“Franck was exceptional - he showed us the way,” said Tolisso. “He encouraged me today. He’s a leader and he led the team to this victory.”
9) His is a popular birthday
Tolisso was born on August 3, which seems a pretty good day to come into the world if you want to become a successful sportsperson in later life. Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich is exactly five years older than Tolisso, while a host of other talents were also born on the same date.
Rugby Union World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams is one, while another high-achieving sports star to share the birth date with Tolisso is New England Patriots quarterback and five-time Superbowl winner Tom Brady.
10) His trophy cabinet is filling up fast
Tolisso continued his goalscoring exploits at Bayern, finishing in double figures at the end of his first season in Bavaria.
"He always plays well when called on,“ said his coach that year, Jupp Heynckes. "He runs hard, he's aggressive and clinical in front of goal. He's a huge talent with so many qualities. He's going to be invaluable to Bayern."
There’s already plenty of shiny metal building up on Tolisso‘s mantelpiece. He won the Supercup in his first match at the club, and rounded off the club season by pocketing a Bundesliga winner’s medal.